Confused

Every so often someone will ask me what I’ve done to lose weight, or what should be included as part of a Healthy Heart diet?

Over the past 9 months I have managed to get myself into reasonable shape, partly through exercise and partly through watching what I eat and drink.  I’ve taken a fairly hard line in determining what I should be consuming:  low saturated fat, lots of fruit and vegetables, no alcohol, no caffeine, low salt.  I have not dieted as such, when I’ve been hungry I’ve eaten.  However I have generally avoided processed food and stuck fairly religiously to the “good” stuff.

The problem is, having made these changes to my diet, I’m confused myself… what is the “good” stuff?

There’s so much contradictory information out there, new research is released on an all too frequent basis.  It’s difficult to know what to do for the best.  Since my Heart Attack I’ve been paying fairly close attention, and I’m confused.  What is it like if you just catch a newspaper or radio headline?  How is anyone supposed to follow a simple, healthy diet based on the “noise” that’s thrown at us?!

Here are some snippets from recent articles:

More research needed into fat guidelines  (The British Heart Foundation 17/03/14):

A study suggests there’s not enough evidence to back the current UK guidelines on the types of fat we eat.  But we think more research is needed before suggesting any major changes.

At the moment guidelines generally encourage us to swap out saturated fats – found in foods like dairy products – for unsaturated fats found in products such as margarine or sunflower oil.

But this analysis, by researchers including BHF Professor John Danesh from the University of Cambridge, of 72 separate studies suggests this change does not impact on our risk of developing heart disease.

So that’s clear then!  Bad fat might not be as bad for us as we thought!  Excellent!

Living and working near takeaways linked to obesity(The British Heart Foundation 13/03/14)

People who live and work near a high number of takeaways are more likely to be obese than people less exposed to these outlets, according to new research we helped to fund.

The researchers found that those who live or work near to takeaway outlets were almost twice as likely to be obese than those who encountered the fewest outlets.

Being obese isn’t good for you, I get that.  I’m assuming, although the article doesn’t mention it, that you need to eat the Take Away food in order to put on weight.

Apparently, giving people information to make healthy choices will reduce the risks of living in this sort of environment… assuming they know what a healthy choice is after they’ve absorbed the information!

Are we too sweet on sugar?  (The British Heart Foundation  04/02/14)

Added sugar is associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), researchers have claimed.

A US study used national health survey data to examine added sugar consumption as a percentage of daily calorie intake. Higher levels of added sugar were then linked to an increased risk of death from CVD.

And so it goes on… sugar, salt, carbohydrates, this fat, that fat, vegetarian diets, Mediterranean diets.  There is even news that chocolate might be the answer (or part of it, at least).  What to do?

For me, there are some basic guidelines that seem to make sense:

    1. You have to eat.  Not eating is not a great idea… not very sustainable.
    2. Things that look like they did in their natural state are generally better for you.
    3. It’s good to eat a variety of different things.
    4. Processed foods can contain a multitude of evils, beware!
    5. Don’t over-eat, manage portions sizes.
    6. Practice moderation and balance.
    7. Try to avoid obsessing over food, it’ll take a lot of fun out of life!

From my perspective, if you’re aware of what you’re consuming it’s a big step towards doing the right things.  I don’t feel like I’m in a position to suggest what to eat, or not.

As I’ve already said, there’s plenty of advice out there.  Good luck in deciding which advice to follow!

3 thoughts on “Confused

  1. Tim Scott

    Good post! I like your guidelines. There was a study in 1998 that first indicated that saturated fat may not be directly linked to heart disease, and their basic premise was that because everyone became so “low fat obsessed” we lost sight of a balanced diet. Part of that balanced diet is consuming fat (as we are now learning!), but more than what current guidelines are telling us.

    I really became tired of my hunger swings every day. I would get home and want to eat an entire pizza. I’m not running marathons so it’s not normal to be that hungry. After rebalancing my diet towards more fats (such as grass fed butter and coconut oil), I simply don’t crave food as much, particularly refined carbs and sugar. It’s a balance. For me, those foods are eaten sparingly because we all know once you take a bite of ice cream or a potato chip, you want to eat more. Lay’s made a slogan out of that by daring us, “Bet you can’t eat just one!”. That’s a good bet they we were sure to lose.

    There’s so many diets out there, and studies, it certainly can be confusing. Especially since the US (and maybe even the UK) recommends a carb-centric diet (9-11 servings!) and very low fat consumption. Most of the successful diets certainly have certain things in common, such as cutting out sugar (which also means refined carbs too). That’s the surest thing we can all do to get our eating habits back to normal and according to recent science, help us stay healthy too!

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    1. Paul Squire Post author

      Thanks Tim! I appreciate your comments. I guess the other point is that we shouldn’t always rely on other people to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. We need to take personal responsibility and apply a little common sense now and again! Best Regards, Paul.

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      1. Tim Scott

        Absolutely! It’s great that we have so much information available to make our own decisions, but it can also get confusing. People can get passionate about what “works for them” too, and preach it as Gospel. It’s good intentions but not every “diet” works for everyone.

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